Tuesday, August 9, 2011

WHY I'M GLAD I'M NOT A WIZARD, BY A MUGGLE: At incredibly Jewish day camp today, one Jewish son of this non-Jew went looking for his ruach -- either his spirit or a traditional crescent-shaped pastry, don't ask me -- at a camp-created recreation of that holiest of Jewish places, Hogwarts. Children locating their Jewish identity were rewarded with essentially unwashable Sharpie tattoos of spectacles and the Devil's brand lightning-bolt scars. The kid was ecstatic. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it's much better to be a muggle than to be a wizard. Consider the plight of the magically inclined:

The government sucks. Right now, nobody likes our two-party system. You know who would love our two-party system? Participants in the wizarding world's no-party system. In seven years among relatively engaged Hogwarts students, we witnessed exactly zero elections. The world is just run by incompetent career bureaucrats who lived through an epochal war between good and evil yet refuse to take precautions against another one unless goaded into action by a sky-eclipsing smoke tattoo. And even then, Plan A is "piss pants until some teenagers figure something out." As far as I can tell, the English wizarding government is comprised of a central administration and four coequal subsidiary branches: security, primary education, prophecy storage, and operation of after-hours public transportation. But you can't improve the government, because nobody can give the government a critical thought. Why?

The education system sucks. There are three schools in the entire wizarding world. If you live in Asia, Africa, Australia, or the Americas and are born a wizard, figure it out yourself. If you live in Eastern Europe and are a girl, figure it out yourself. If you live in France, figure it out yourself -- unless you're a hot girl, because the hot French girls have their own school. If you live in England, you're lucky. You don't have to be hot or to have the other kind of wand. You get to spend seven years under the tutelage of an ancient and powerful wizard whose educational toolbox includes such tricks as "make a point and induce lifelong guilt by letting one student try to kill me while another student fails to prevent my death," "host sporting event that endangers lives of both participants and their loved ones then act shocked when student dies," and "repeatedly withhold potentially life-saving information from favorite student." Kids keep dying or almost dying, and the rest of the students are just like "Cor! Another one! Blimey! I'm right knackered of all this bloody codswallop!" At the end of your seven years, congratulations. You've learned no science, no math, no English, no civics, no foreign language, no art. You read and calculate at a fifth-grade level and know nothing of the world you share with the muggles, or even how your own government functions. On the other hand, you've learned about nine spells, which is perfect if your job is making things float or dispensing temporary paralysis. But don't worry about your job, because:

The economy sucks. The largest industry in the wizarding world, by orders of magnitude, is government. The second-largest is putting on the Quidditch World Cup. The third largest is inheriting money from your dead relatives. There is no credit and no paper currency -- you pay for everything with gold coins. The Weasleys, with all those kids and just government jobs to support them, are poor, and Ron has to make do with hand-me-down and hand-made clothes and a rat instead of an owl. Hermione, whose muggle parents have no wizarding gold and no way to get any, apparently steals her fashionable clothes and school supplies. Why aren't there any jobs? Probably because of the slave economy, which reminds me:

Race relations suck. I don't mean race relations as we think of them (though, come to think of it, name me a black girl or an Asian boy or a Jewish kid at Hogwarts). As everybody knows, it took a muggle-born tween with some familiarity with the American civil rights movement to introduce to the millenia-old wizarding world the concept that elf slavery is wrong. It didn't take. And it's not just the elves. The centaurs got themselves stuck sharing a reservation in the forest with the giant spiders. The only (half-) giant ever to matriculate at Hogwarts was an easy scapegoat for the misdeeds of a regular wizard. And I'm not sure how to put this delicately, but the wizarding financial industry is controlled by an insular tribe of money-obsessed short creatures with hooked noses? Charming.

Look, it would be nice to ride a broom, especially if one didn't need to ride it in English weather. And it would be nice to have the dishes do themselves and accio remote/keys/phone when one is balancing a bowl of popcorn on one's stomach. I'm just saying that the game isn't worth the candle -- the lummos isn't worth the wand -- that's all.


  1. Genevieve4:22 AM

    Black girl at Hogwarts:  Angelina Johnson (Quidditch Captain after Wood, crush of Lee Jordan, Yule Ball date of Fred);  Also Alicia Spinnet (also on Gryffindor quidditch team)
    Jewish kid at Hogwarts (I always assumed):  Anthony Goldstein (and just as England doesn't bother with any public decorations/songs/celebrations that aren't Christmasy, neither does Hogwarts)
    You've got me on Asian boys, though an actor named Rayman Jilani played an unnamed Hufflepuff.

    I plead the 5th on the rest.  Just gotta suspend me some (plenty of) disbelief, since I love the series possibly nearly as much as your ruach-seeking son.

  2. For a brief moment I thought that Genevieve meant "the series of posts where Isaac breaks out his can of whoop ass." Ohhhh, you meant that *other* series.

  3. For a moment I thought that Genevieve meant "the series of posts where Isaac breaks out his can of whoop ass." Ohhhh, you meant that *other* series.

  4. Anonymous8:27 AM

    There are more than three schools. The schools that participate in the Triwizard tournament are the biggest and best-known schools in Europe.

  5. Meghan8:28 AM

    Can I copy this and email to some friends?  Because an Isaac rant is a good thing, and this is among the best.

  6. Meghan8:33 AM

    Sort of like the Ivy League of Wizardry, except with competitive sports teams.  The rest of the wizarding population go to state schools.

  7. Everyone knows the London Riots somehow involve disgruntled Death Eaters, right?

  8. The Pathetic Earthling8:52 AM

    Be sure you include the link with the text so it's properly attributed to ALOTT5MA (plus it drives traffic here)

  9. Dean Thomas is also black.  I have assumed that the Patil twins are Asian. 

    Hermione's parents can change their pounds into wizarding cash at Gringotts as shown in the beginning of book 2. 

    Yes, I enjoy the HP series and would gladly exchange my muggle-dom for witch status if I could.

  10. There's a Brazilian school and a school in Salem. MA mentioned in Goblet, but you don't see their grads working for the Ministry.

  11. Genevieve9:59 AM

    Angelina Johnson apparently ends up marrying George Weasley. 

  12. Genevieve10:00 AM

    That too.  But I just came back from Hogwarts in Orlando, and am loving the place and the books all over again.  Despite what Isaac points out (though I think there are other schools, they're just not sister schools w/Hogwarts for tournament purposes).

  13. Genevieve10:01 AM

    I'm going to have to go back and look for that.  And they probably work for their own government Departments.

  14. Meghan2:09 PM

    So maybe the ministers we got to know in HP are more like the UN?  Or were they just the British ministry?

  15. bella wilfer2:38 PM

    This is hilarious and amazing.  (I still love Harry Potter, though...can you do a take-down of Twilight next? ;) )

  16. Anonymous2:46 PM

    I'd have to read it first. So no. 

  17. Meghan3:20 PM

    I was going to ask for a take-down of Tolkien.

  18. isaac_spaceman3:51 PM

    Hey, incidentally, I don't think this is a take-down.  Obviously I don't know the details as well as some of the people here, but you don't write a post like this without reading every book.  Plus, all I'm doing is taking the world seriously. 

    Tolkein, you know, all I remember about that is liking Fellowship and skipping all of the poetry.  I read it, what, 30 years ago?  32 years ago? 

  19. Anna Weber4:10 PM

    Yeah, my first thought was Alicia Spinnet- but point made, nevertheless.

  20. bella wilfer4:11 PM

    Oh, I didn't mean "take-down" as a purely negative thing.  Just kind of a "putting this world in perspective" as opposed to bowing down w/o really analyzing what's actually going on.  

  21. Genevieve7:59 PM

    I had to double-check:  in the books, Beauxbatons and Durstrang are both co-ed (students of both genders are seen entering Hogwarts, and when Parvati and Padma are sick of being ignored by Harry and Ron, they dance with Beauxbatons boys). 

  22. isaac_spaceman8:48 AM

    If your character doesn't have a name, your character does not count.

  23. Genevieve9:49 AM

    No, but it tells you that there are wizarding schools for Eastern European girls and French boys as well.

  24. Shaina2:22 PM

    There are shopkeepers, craftsmen, specialty food producers, and writers.  Wizards design wands and cauldrons, not to mention the fact that there were at least 3 competing broom manufacturers (cleansweep, nimbus, firebolt).  There are also, presumably, painters, because if wizards like anything, it's pictures of their relatives.  Charlie is a dragon-handler.  Bill is a curse-breaker for Gringotts.  I feel like what we saw in Hogwarts students was a mentality of an idealized job market, where everyone became a lawyer or a policeman or a doctor (auror, minister for magic, professor).

    Hermione learned arithmancy (math) and ancient runes (a second language).  Potions and herbology were arguably a replacement for science.  There was also a Muggle Studies class which nobody took.

    Late to the party, I know.  Couldn't help myself.